Seth Rogen recently had an important conversation with writer Decca Aitkenhead for The Sunday Times where he addressed an ill-received joke he made on SNL about James Franco propositioning a teenage girl on Instagram. Rogen quipped during his opening monologue that he had “pranked” Franco by pretending to be the teenager—taking lightly that his friend actually did try to get a minor to spend the night with him. He admitted it was a “terrible joke” and said he regretted it. Now, he’s expanded the conversation during an appearance on Good Morning Britain while promoting his memoir, Yearbook.
Host Susanna Reid asked how he feels looking back at controversial jokes from his films, and Rogen gave a very sincere answer. “There are certain jokes that for sure have not aged well, but I think that’s the nature of comedy,” he explained. “I think conceptually those movies are sound, and I think there’s a reason they’ve lasted as far as people still watching and enjoying them today. Jokes are not things that necessarily are built to last.”
He added that he doesn’t get why certain comedians react so strongly when they’re called out for past problematic jokes, saying, “To me when I see comedians complaining about this kind of thing, I don’t understand what they’re complaining about. If you’ve made a joke that’s aged terribly, accept it. And if you don’t think it’s aged terribly, then say that.” He also made a very important note, saying that receiving criticism is “one of the things that goes along with being an artist, and if you don’t like that, then don’t be a comedian anymore.”
Rogen brings up a very important point. The comedy landscape is ever-changing, and it’s possible to push boundaries and be funny without punching down. If you’re someone with a platform, you lose nothing by actually admitting that yeah, that joke was shitty, and moving on from working on material that falls into outdated, problematic territory. It should be easy, but too many comedians still fear “cancel culture” rather than accepting that they should find new ways to be funny. Hopefully, Rogen can help change the minds of some people who fear reckoning with harmful jokes.